The Walmer Branch Line, as it was known, would only operate from December 1906 to 26th November 1928. During those 22 years, this narrow gauge train would wend its way through to Walmer from Station Road, parallel to Strand Street, in Port Elizabeth to 14th Avenue in Walmer via Humewood.
In this blog, Anthony Longworth provides his recollections of this iconic railway, how it operated and what route it took. For a detailed technical blog, go to ‘http://thecasualobserver.co.za/port-elizabeth-yore-narrow-gauge-walmer-branch-line/
Main picture: The terminus of the Walmer Branch Line
Balfour Turton Dix-Peek
(1868-1932) was one of the sons of my maternal great-great grandfather, George
Dix-Peek, thus making him my second great uncle. In these letters by Arthur to his great-niece Anita,
(and thus a cousin of mine) in 1931 and 1932, he elaborates what life was like
in Port Elizabeth during the 1870s i.e. when he was very young
Main picture: Market Square in 1874
The Poulter Family of Port Elizabeth might not have been prominent socially or in municipal affairs yet through the prism of this family, one is able to view life of the Port Elizabeth of Yore. All of this information has been kindly supplied by Dale Poulter of the current generation of Poulters.
Main pictures: Louis John Poulter as a member of the Southern Rifles
Apart from being the first person to own a motor car in Port Elizabeth, William Alcock was also the first Mayor of the garden town, Walmer, south of its larger sibling, Port Elizabeth. Even though he was a tinsmith by training, he had extremely eclectic interests and inbued an entrepreneurial spirit to boot. He was a member of the Photographic Society, the Athenaeum Society, the Museum and the Port Elizabeth Automobile Club. In addition, his civic duties related to the Walmer Municipality, first as a member, then Chairman in 1891 and finally first Mayor in 1899.
This blog highlights one of Port Elizabeth’s early civic leaders who also had manifold interests in diverse fields.
Main picture: William Alcock as a child in Birkenhead, England, in the 1850s
With its wide avenues, broad pavements, a cornucopia of trees and houses set far back from the road, Walmer was rightly known as the garden town when it was a separate municipality. Divided from its larger sibling by the Baakens River, it evoked a sense of genteel suburban living.
Main picture: Target Kloof
Today nothing remains of this railway line which wended its way through the sylvan town of Walmer in the early twentieth century. Not even a memory, the sound of the whistle or the smell of the coal-fired engine which traversed the arboreal streets such as Villiers and Water Roads all the way to the municipal boundary at 14th Avenue recalls this miniature train.
Main picture: Narrow gauge train leaving the Main Station in Port Elizabeth. The engine is a NG13/16 class Garratt
Due to the Baakens River Valley, Port Elizabeth is effectively cleaved into two. Instead of having to take a circuitous route around via South End or use a track from Gubb’s Location, during 1896 it was decided at a Town Council meeting that the Divisional Council’s proposed plan to build a road through Target Kloof from Port Elizabeth to Walmer be approved.
This blog covers the history of the various tracks and roads linking these two towns.
Main picture: The original proper road across the Baakens River was merely called New Road. Also note the footbridge on the left of the road. It was probably used by pedestrian traffic when the river was in spate and water flowed over the road. The hill in the background is where Wellington Park is situated today. Wellington Park is a small Municipal open space on the edge of the Baakens Valley at the corner of Main Road and 5th Avenue. It used to consist of two sports fields that were voluntarily maintained by the nearby Clarendon Primary School.